SAN JOSE, Calif. – Infiniband specialist Mellanox Technologies takes its next big step into the Ethernet world Monday (April 25), sampling its first switch chip that can support either technology.
The Switch X supports up to 36 ports of 40 Gbit/s Ethernet or the latest, fastest version of Infiniband which hits rates up to 56 Gbits/s. That's twice the number of 40G ports on current chips from 10G Ethernet leaders Broadcom, Marvell and Fulcrum.
The Mellanox switch also meets or exceeds its competition in low latency, power per port and 10G support. The company hopes its advantages give it a leg up at a time when 40G Ethernet silicon is just starting a slow ramp, said Bob Wheeler, principal analyst at the Linley Group ( Mountain View, Calif.).
The market watcher estimates shipments of 40G Ethernet chips will be well under 100,000 units in 2013 and well under half a million in 2014, according to Wheeler.
Mellanox has long been the only merchant supplier of Infiniband chips. Since 2007 it has supported Ethernet along with Infiniband on its host chips as a way to expand its market.
Switch X consumes about 2W per 56 Gbit/s Infiniband port, 1.5W on 40GE ports and 0.62W on 10GE ports. That's about on par with competing Ethernet devices some of which require external physical layer components that the Switch X integrates.
The chip has a latency of 165 nanoseconds over 56G Infiniband and 250 ns on Ethernet. That's about on par with Fulcrum's Ethernet latency and lower than the 500 ns or greater latency of other competitors, said Wheeler.
Switch X is the first chip to support the new 56 Gbit/s rate for Infiniband using four lanes of 14 Gbits/s. Mellanox aims to ship later this year host adapter chips to support the other end of the fast links.
One down side of Switch X is "it is a big chip, so it will not be a cost leader," said Wheeler.
The chip packs about 1.5 billion transistors in a 45mm2 package and consumes up to 72 W in the 36-port 56 Gbit/s Infiniband version. A 64-port 10GE version consumes about 40W. Mellanox would not disclose pricing for the chip.
The chip will be in production in the fall in a variety of configurations including one supporting up to 48 10 Gbit/s Ethernet ports and 12 40G ports. Mellanox also plans to roll out software for the chip to support Fibre Channel over Ethernet.
Following its acquisition of Voltaire in November, Mellanox produces everything from merchant chips to adapter cards and full systems. It expects to demo a system using Switch X at Interop in early May and to ship such systems once the chip is in production.